If you’ve written off the crazy plot of Passengers — which sees Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up from space hibernation while the rest of the crew remains sound asleep — as science fiction, think again. As PhysOrg reports, life support systems for deep space travel are indeed in the works, and an Atlanta company called Spaceworks Enterprises is leading the charge.
Spaceworks Enterprises is currently using a grant from NASA in the amount of $500,000 to develop systems that could keep a human alive in “low metabolic stasis” for long space trips, such as those to Mars. Spaceworks CEO John Bradford told reporters at a recent panel that “it’s medically possible” to create a system like the one from the film, though the first steps will be smaller than the decades-long hibernation Pratt and Lawrence endure.
The company is drawing from established medical techniques, such as those that lower body temperature to dramatically reduce metabolism, in order to develop something that astronauts could use for the months-long trips back and forth to Mars and other nearby destinations. However, Bradford says, the pods themselves would look nothing like the fancy “sleeping beauty” pods seen in Passengers. “The hibernation in this movie is a little more magical just because we need people to look cute in those pods,” he says. “People floating in a sea of sludge or frozen like popsicles are a little less romantic.”
Of course, the rest of Passengers‘ plot, which includes a traveling to a space colony 120 years away on a ship that holds over 5,000 people, will remain well within the realm of science fiction for many more years.